Australia's rebel bishop, Geoffrey Robinson, might presently be seen to be on "the outer" with the ecclesial establishment but funnier things have happened in Catholic Church history where those once excommunicated or ostracised end up being the ones crowned as saints. Australia's first saint, Mary Mackillop, is a good example of the many who have experienced that sort of turn around in their fortunes. Some may be aware that it was actually Bishop Robinson's work as the initial leader of the response to the clerical sexual abuse crisis in Australia back in the 1990s that more than probably led to the initial modification in Vatican policy that dropped the imposition on Bishops of pontifical secrecy so that clerical crimes could be reported to the civil authorities with the capacity to prosecute. That modification of official Vatican policy was subsequently, and slowly, extended to bishops in other territories of the world and only finally abandoned altogether (and quietly) by the current pope in 2010. Don't write off Bishop Geoffrey Robinson just yet as a force to be reckoned with in bringing about major policy changes in the Catholic Church. At present Bishop Robinson is on a lecture tour in the United States – despite the attempts of some conservative bishops to try and impede his capacity to speak – and his lectures have been garnering an audience far outside the actual lecture halls where he has been speaking.
Today on Catholica we publish a lecture Bishop Robinson gave in Australia at the ACARP Conference* in November 2010 in which he outlines 12 elements that he believes need to be addressed to finally clean up the scandal caused by the Clerical Abuse Crisis. At the time of the Conference we did publish his twelve points in summary form and one small video clip where he explained point nine in full. Today on Catholica we'd like to adopt his arguments as our own editorial commentary arguing that what Bishop Robinson advances in these twelve points might go not only a long way to solving the clerical abuse crisis but, if adopted, the suggestions he makes might go a long, long way to addressing the entire crisis in credibibility the institution finds itself in today. We re-publish here the textual summary we previously provided but, for the first time, in this 26 minute video you can hear his arguments on all 12 points presented in full.
Bishop Robinson's 12 points that might go a long way
to solving many of the institution's problems...
Click the image above to watch Bishop Robinson's address in full
Here, in summary written form, are the twelve areas that Bishop Robinson suggests need to be addressed:
- The Angry God: This image the institution projects of a God of Wrath and Anger needs to be challenged. It is wrong, and bad theology.
- The Male Church: Women have been marginalised and treated as second class by the institution for far too long.
- The Culture of Celibacy: Not so much celbacy per se but mandatory celibacy has to take a major part of the blame as a contributing cause of this crisis.
- Moral Immaturity: The seminary system and training of priests and religious has not encouraged moral and spiritual maturity. That needs to be changed.
- Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy: Bishop Robinson argues there has been far too much emphasis on Orthodoxy (right belief) and far too little on Orthopraxy (right action).
- Sexual Teaching: He argues there needs to be "a profound change in all of sexual morality" within the institution.
- The Mystique of Priesthood: Priests have been placed on a pedestal of perfection for far too long. It's dangerous to them and it's dangerous to the people they are meant to be serving. Priests are not God — they struggle with all the challenges that ay human beings struggle with in their lives. Often because of their positions on these pedestals they have been placed on they find it difficult to find support in their lives.
- Professionalism: There has been a rise in professional standards across almost all professions — ethical codes, structures that protect and foster professional integrity but the priesthood has largely been excluded. He argues much more needs to be done to lift professional standards of those in ministry with the Church.
- A Pope who can't make mistakes: He argues that the way the pontiff has been placed on a pedestal and immune from criticism has been especially damaging to the institution. Creeping infallibility is a huge problem not only for some at the top who would seem to believe they have divine perfection already but also for many at the lowest rungs of the Church. This culture needs to be changed.
- The Loyalty of Bishops to the Pope: Their oath of allegiance is to the Pope — not to God, or the Church. He argues significant blame has to be placed at the feet of the late John Paul II for his inadequate responses to the growing sexual abuse crisis.
- A Culture of Secrecy: Bishop Robinson argues that the culture of secrecy in the Church has been a major cause of the problems. Bishops need to present themselves in the best light all the time and the culture of secrecy runs with that. It has been deeply damaging to the institution and needs to be changed.
- The Sensus Fidelium: He argues the institutional leadership need to be listening far more to the thinking of the broad body of the faithful not just to the small sectors that crave authority figures and founts of certitude.
*Australasian Clergy Abuse, Reparation & Prevention Conference. For our news report on that Conference see: www.catholica.com.au/breakingnews/033_bn_151110.php
Brian Coyne, Editor and Publisher, 03 March 2012
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